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East Asia, Korea, Late Koryo/Goryeo, ca. 14th century CE. A wonderful grey stoneware vessel in the form of a turtle - an animal traditionally associated with longevity and rebirth in Korea. While much Koryo pottery was utilitarian in intent - some pieces possessed more artistic/symbolic intentions, with spouts depicting zoomorphic and anthropomorphic entities. This piece presents a squat ovoid body with an attenuated neck and flared rim atop and a turtle head spout emerging from the side wall, all atop a concave circular foot. The body is finely incised with decorative motifs: a band of nested scallops encircling the upper spout; a register of stylized cloud motifs; a band of concentric circles joined by 'beaded' arches; a register of repeating floral motifs; a register of repeating fin-like motifs; and finally a band of repeating vertical dotted motifs. What's more, the endearing turtle head spout is nicely modeled and detailed with incised eyes and markings to delineate the animal's wrinkly skin. Size: 9" W (from turtle spout) x 5" H (22.9 cm x 12.7 cm)
Aside from Chinese stoneware, Korean stoneware from this time period is the oldest known high-fired ware in the world. To make it, Korean artisans had to generate kiln temperatures greater than 1000 Celsius! The characteristic grey color of this vessel and others like it is caused by the reduction of oxygen in the kiln's inner chamber. According to art historian Chewon Kim, "Silla pottery may well be the most genuinely indigenous of all Korean art forms, in spite of the formal influences from outside which were brought to bear upon it. It varies from the near-primitive to the sophisticated, but it invariably has about it a natural quality which bespeaks its specifically Korean origin." (C. Kim "The Arts of Korea" Thames & Hudson, 1966)
This piece has been tested using thermoluminescence (TL) analysis and has been found to be ancient and of the period stated. A full report will accompany purchase.
Provenance: Estate of William Stockton, Colorado, USA; acquired between July 20, 1966 and January 7, 1974 while Mr. Stockton was stationed in Okinawa, Japan. During this period he traveled primarily to Korea, but also to Japan, Vietnam, and other countries in Southeast Asia.
All items legal to buy/sell under U.S. Statute covering cultural patrimony Code 2600, CHAPTER 14, and are guaranteed to be as described or your money back.
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Turtle head spout has been reattached. Minute nicks to peripheries of spouts and base. Normal surface wear commensurate with age. Nice earthen/mineral deposits. Tiny TL hole on base.